A new program to minimise the threats domestic cats pose to wildlife is being pioneered by Eurobodalla Council on the NSW South Coast.
In parts of the shire selected due to wildlife numbers, council will distribute free co-called CatBibs that attach to cats’ collars and hang loosely down, acting as a barrier between cats and their prey. Made from wetsuit-like material, CatBibs interfere with the timing and coordination needed for successful hunting.
CatBibs do not impede cats in any other way—they can still run, jump, climb trees, eat, sleep, scratch and groom.
Council’s natural resource supervisor, Courtney Fink-Downes, said Murdoch University had scientifically proven the device worked to stop more than 80 per cent of cats from catching birds, and reduced small animal predation by almost half.
“Roaming domestic cats are a significant conservation issue in Eurobodalla because they hunt, harass and compete with wildlife. Their hunting activities impact birds, lizards, frogs and many native mammals including bandicoots and gliders,” she said.
“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that we need to be proactive and do something to protect wildlife from domestic cat predation.
“There are also concerns about unrestrained roaming domestic cats because of risks to cat welfare, including cats fighting and getting injured. Information suggests cats wearing CatBibs stay closer to home and are less likely to wander, therefore they’re less likely to get injured.”
Fink-Downes added that the program was created with input from universities and local animal welfare groups.
“We are the first council in Australia to drive this,” she said.
“We have been working closely with universities to develop the program and to establish scientific evidence to support the need for it. Residents who take up the free CatBib offer will be contributing to this very important research.
“We’re hoping it eventually becomes normal practice that cats wear CatBibs every time they go outside.”